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Facebook changes news feed to prioritise original reporting

Adam Smith
A Facebook App logo is displayed on a smartphone in Arlington, Virginia: AFP

Facebook is making a change to its News Feed algorithm that will prioritise original reporting and stories with “transparent authorship”.

The social media giant announced the news in a blog post written by Campbell Brown, the company’s VP of Global News Partnerships and Product Manager Jon Levin.

Facebook will look at groups of articles on a particular story, and identify which ones are most often cited as the original source.

The prioritisation of “transparent authorship” means that articles with named editorial staff will be promoted, as Facebook says publishers who do not provide this information lack credibility and produce content with clickbait.

This is a standard set by a number of organisations, including the Trust Project, SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition, Global Forum for Media Development, and Reporters Without Borders’ Journalism Trust Initiative.

Facebook says it has partnered with these organisations, as well as 20 global media experts, to develop its own standards.

There are, of course, journalists in countries where such transparency would put them at risk of retaliation. As such, Facebook is only rolling out this update in “limited markets” to start.

Currently, this is only for English-language articles, but the company will roll it out to other territories over time.

“Most of the news stories people see in News Feed are from sources they or their friends follow, and that won’t change. When multiple stories are shared by publishers and are available in a person’s News Feed, we will boost the more original one which will help it get more distribution,” the post reads.

“Defining original reporting and the standards for it are complex, so we will continue to work with publishers and academics to refine this approach over time.”

This is not the only change Facebook is making with regards to news articles; the company is also experimenting with a new feature whereby it will inform users when they are sharing an old, potentially out-of-date article.

Users will be given the option to continue to share the article or “go back” if they feel it is now not as relevant.

This announcement comes as many companies are taking issue with the content that Facebook does or does not allow on its platform and on its subsidiary companies such as Instagram.

Many advertisers are boycotting the company over claims that it profiteers from “hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism and violence.

Brands currently pausing their campaigns on the platform include Ben & Jerry’s, The North Face, and Eddie Bauer.

Microsoft has also recently ended its campaigns on Facebook, although that is over concerns about what types of content its brand is associated with.

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